When it comes time to choose a name for the newest addition to
your family, the task can seem daunting. Should you go traditional
or pick something unique? Gender neutral or clearly boy or
Bruce Lansky, author of 5-Star Baby Name Advisor, along with many
other baby name books, offers his advice to parents who want to
pick the right name for their little one.
In your book you rate 1,800 different names on a five
star scale. How did you determine how many stars each name
There are about six or seven factors I based the stars on. The
first is first impression. I did a survey of about 1,000 people
online asking them what comes to mind when they hear a particular
name. So the impressions were either favorable, neutral or
Another consideration is when you tell someone the name, if they
ask, "How do you spell that?" That tells me the kid will have a
spelling problem, even if you choose the most popular spelling. If
you've sent out a birth announcement and someone says "How do you
pronounce that?" you know you have a practical problem as well.
These are all problems that could create a mark down in the
I also looked at whether a name was gender confusing and if the
popularity was increasing or decreasing. When a trend goes down
people are saying, "I found a more appealing alternative." What the
rating does really tell you, mostly with practical issues, is
whether this name will be more of a joy than a pain in the
What trends are you currently seeing with baby
Boys' names are usually more traditional and girls' names are
more cyclical, but with both there are "choice clusters," which
describes names that are up or down in '07 from '06. Clusters that
went up-Gabriella and Isabella, and my sense is that people like
names with Italian/Spanish romance to them and the --bella
ending. Sophia and Sophie, which was the number one rising
name, and Audrey and Aubrey both also rose dramatically.
On the boys' side, the one big choice was Jayden and Brayden,
although interestingly Caiden was down. If you look into top 100
you see these mini trends where people like sound-alike names.
Cooper and Wyatt are also on the rise, which are both cute and
different with a Western flavor.
What advice do you have for parents who are looking for
a "different" name?
It's a great thing for people to strive for, but the odds are
low of finding a unique name that is miraculously great. On the
other hand, the odds of getting a good response when you try a name
out and it's popular are high. My encouragement goes out to people
who want to look for names in odd places, and I encourage you to
try, but I also encourage you to do your homework and figure out
every possible thing that could go wrong with that name.
"Boy did I have a hard time trying to convince my husband not to
name our son after him-Roosevelt Jason. I borrowed one of my
friend's baby names book and I found Jadon. I told him that the
name would be just like his middle name except we were changing the
"s" to a "d." He finally gave in. I wouldn't have been able to
stomach Roosevelt as my child's first name, no matter how
distinguished it sounds."
Tameika R. Randle
"My husband was not as eager to start the baby naming process as I
was so it took quite awhile. Late in my pregnancy, I had a dream in
which I called the baby Sarah. So I told my husband her name was
Sarah and that was that-she had to be named!"
"My husband is Italian so he really wanted Italian names. My
second child was a girl (and) we were undecided between two names.
Unfortunately his father passed away suddenly, thus throwing me
into preterm labor. When my daughter was born, we were still
undecided on which name to give her. On the back of (my
father-in-law's obituary) was an advertisement for a play, the
name, Isabella. That was one of our two names. Thus my daughter is
Isabella Athena (my middle name)."
"My oldest daughter is named Alaina June. The meaning and origin
varies by spelling, but it is Irish and means precious and
beautiful. June is after my mom who passed away when I was 8½
months pregnant with Alaina. My middle daughter is Abigail Grace.
Grace was from the song "Amazing Grace." Abby's due date was
9/11/01, and although she didn't appear till 9/29 the song was
heard a lot during that time and reminded us of the amazing grace
of God. My youngest daughter was named Marisa Joan. We struggled
for three days on a name at the hospital for her-my husband came up
with Marisa and we all agreed as a family that we like the name.
Her middle name, Joan, is after her grandmother on my husband's
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